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2 Peter 2:20-22

Dr. Grant C. Richison


It is inconsistent to teach assurance without eternal security for in reality there is no assurance except for a temporal security by operation bootstraps.

II.   2 Peter 2:20-22

A.  Context:

Argument of the book of Second Peter deals with false teachers in the last days.  The context is not dealing with Christians.  Therefore, none of the statements in context to 2:20-20 are dealing with Christians except as they relate to avoiding false teachers.

The “they” of verse 20 are the same as the “they” of verse 19 and the false teachers of verse 1. 

The word “escaped” occurs 3 times in the NT and all three times in this little book.  The first time is 1:4 “having escaped the corruption that is in the world.”  The second time is 2:18, “that were clean escaped from them who live in error” and the third time in our verse.

Verses 20-22 deal with converts of false teachers.

B.    Exegesis of passage:

Verse 20 is the protasis (the “if” clause). 

“After that they have escaped.“ The word “escaped” occurred in verse 18.  At verse 18 it is in the present tense — “they were about to escape.”  They were positive volition to the Word of God, they were close to responding to the gospel.  Verse 20 is in the aorist tense.  They were trapped by the false teachers from making their decision for Christ.  They had a chance but they blew it. 

The word pollution is miasma.  This is the word from which we get the English word “miasma” which means a polluted swamp.  The thing that turned the false teacher’s converts back into negative volition was their love for the pollution of the world.  Their moral defilement was the motivation for their negative volition (Rom. 1:20f). 

“Through the knowledge“ The word for knowledge here is “full-knowledge.”  They had a full exposure to the knowledge of Christ but they rejected Christ in the face of full understanding of who he is.  They went negative volition at the point of decision for Christ.  Negative volition established a vacuum.  Into that vacuum came the religion of the false teachers.  They had a clear revelation of who Jesus was but rejected that message. 

“Entangled” means to weave into something.  At one point they were about to receive the grace of God in Christ but they wove into that message religion.  In this they committed apostasy in the sense of rejecting the message of the gospel. 

“Overcome” — they were vanquished from the gospel.  They became enslaved in a religious system.

“The latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” The “latter end” is the Lake of Fire.  People who refuse to respond to the gospel because they remain under the influence of false teachers become double losers.  They were lost in the first place; they are lost in the second place by receiving a full exposure of Jesus Christ and still reject Christ. 

v.21.  “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness“ this is a protasis (if clause) but is a second class condition in the Greek (if and it is not true).  It was not because they did not know that Jesus’ death on the cross is the answer.  They knew it but rejected it.

Why is it “better” for them “not to have known the way of righteousness?”  They will know in hell the totality of what they missed. 

“After they have know it” — it is not true — they will know because they have know it.  They will not be able to plead ignorance. 

“To turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.“ The word “turn” means to turn your back again upon.  They changed their course of action as a deliberate and final choice.  They wanted their own way (v.22).  The word “delivered” is the word committed.  The gospel was handed down to them but they rejected it in the face of “full-knowledge” of Jesus Christ.  They will know for eternity that they rejected the gospel.  Religion makes a fool of us all.

v22.  This is a quote from Proverbs 26:11.  This verse explains how a person can be thoroughly acquainted with the person and work of Christ  and still reject him. 

Dog= an unbelieving Gentile.  The dog cannot resist to smell vomit when he passes it.  We all think that we miss something.  When someone comes with false doctrine there is the temptation to smell the vomit.  Vomit here is the religion of the false teachers.  When they say “no” to the gospel they return to the vomit of religion. 

Sow= both the dog and the sow are unclean animals.  People who love their lives as non-Christians have a proclivity to stay with that love.  We can clean a sow on the outside but her nature remains the same.  

The dog and the sow love religion.  They want reformation not regeneration.  We can wash the sow but she will return to her nature.  People love religion because religion strokes self-effort, not grace given by God.  There is a big difference between a dirty sheep (a Christian) and a washed sow!!  God never calls people who are true Christians by the names of dog and sow in the Bible.  Unsaved people are called “dogs, sows, goats, donkeys, foxes and wolves.”  Saved people are called sheep, lambs and oxen.  

Summary:  Everyone who hears the gospel does not believe it.  If we hear the gospel and do not believe it, it does not do us any good.  Many unbelievers know about Christ but they do not know him personally.  We can know facts about him and give acquiescence to him but not embrace him as our Savior.  Some people can be exposed to Christianity all of their lives without knowing what it is all about.  There are people who can get a doctor’s degree in philosophy without knowing what it is all about.  People who entangle themselves with religion can know thoroughly the person and work of Christ and not be saved.  There are many lost preachers today.  People preach cleaning up the outside and outward moral reformation but not inward regeneration.  This is why the unsaved (dog, sow) revert to religion.  A true Christian “turns” to the Shepherd (1 Peter 2:25).